Food Industry

FDA New Rules: Mandatory Calorie Counts on Everything, Even Popcorn and Booze

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has just announced new rules that will affect nearly everything we, as diners and consumers, put into our mouths.

That above statement is not hyperbole, by the way. The rules, a major extension of the 2010 law that required chain restaurants to disclose certain nutritional information. Listed under section 4205 of the Affordable Care Act, the mandate got push back from chains, especially movie theaters and pizza chains and the final rules were delayed for three year, according to the New York Times.

The new, final rules require that calories be listed on certain menus in chain restaurants and other places selling restaurant-type food. Surprisingly, the rules also include movie popcorn, vending machine snacks, and cocktails (when listed on a menu). Which will likely cause anxiety the next time you're in the mood for a mudslide.

According to FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamberf, "Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home. These final rules will give consumers more information when they are dining out and help them lead happier lives."

Restaurants will be required to provide basic calorie information on menus and menu boards, along with the following reminder: "2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary." In addition, the menus must state that additiona nutritional information like total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and protein, can be made available upon request.

According to the FDA, restaurants have one year to comply with the rules, which apply to restaurants and retail food establishments that are "part of a chain with 20 or more locations and that are doing business under the same name; offer basically the same menu items and sell restaurant-type food." Here, specifically, are the establishments the new law covers:

  • Sit-down and fast-food restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops and restaurant-type foods in certain grocery and convenience stores.
  • Take-out and delivery foods, such as pizza.
  • Foods purchased at drive-through windows.
  • Foods that you serve yourself from a salad or hot-food bar.
  • Alcoholic drinks such as cocktails when they appear on menus.
  • Foods at places of entertainment, such as movie theaters.

Vending machine companies that own or operate 20 or more units will also be required to comply with the rules, although they have a two year extension. Even though most snack items have nutritional information on their individual labels, calorie information will have to be listed on a sign or sticker on the actual machine.

Exemptions to the rule include food sold at deli counters and intended for more than one person; bottles of liquor displayed behind a bar; and food sold or offered on food trucks, airplanes, and trains.

Ironically, food on menus in elementary, middle, and high school programs that are "part of U.S. Department of Agriculture school feeding programs" are also exempt (although vending machines in schools fall under the law).

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